I don’t know about you but life it pretty complicated these days so when it comes to food, I’m trying to keep it simple. From meals to snacks, anything not fussy or complicated is most welcome at my table right now! In terms of ingredients, I don’t want to have to hunt down anything that’s hard-to-find. My circle of places I actually go is pretty small these days and even though our online shopping options are pretty great, if you need something special, it’s not always a sure bet that your shopper will be able to find it for you.
You can’t get much more simple than a pound cake – a quatre-quarts in French! Flour, sugar, eggs, butter (and a touch of baking powder) makes what many might think is a plain cake but what I call simple perfection. Especially if you use excellent quality butter (European-style, so +/- 84% butter fat is best here), this is a cake that shines on its own but is also really good with some ice-cream, whipped cream and berries and even toasted with a slick of butter and jam. Four(ish) ingredients for the win!
“Quatre quarts” translates to “four fourths/ quarters,” and traditionally, all four main ingredients (butter, eggs, sugar and flour) are used in equal parts (per their weight). Since not everyone bakes by weight (what? you don’t own a kitchen scale??), many recipes convert to cups and it can sometimes be a bit awkward, so for the recipe in In the French kitchen with kids, I rounded both the weight and the equivalent volume up or down to make things a little easier (so, for those of you who bake with “sticks” of butter, you’re using 2 sticks of butter, for example instead of a random amount that is hard to figure out if you don’t weigh ingredients).
A blank canvas
The best thing about a pound cake is how it’s an excellent blank canvas for adding in different flavours both to the actual cake itself and when you serve it and it’s a good way to use up fruit that’s on its last legs. This past weekend, I was tinkering in the kitchen and found some blueberries languishing in my fridge and some lemons that were too hard to juice but perfect to zest and while there are so many other recipes that blueberries and lemon zest would enhance, I’ve been playing with some classic French recipes and had quatre quarts on my mind and… bingo! I knew this would be a great combination!
- Butter, for greasing the pan
- 1 cup (226 g) salted butter
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- Zest of three lemons (about 2 heaping tablespoons)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups (225 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup (around 150g) fresh blueberries (+ 1/2 tablespoon flour to coat the berries)
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F (175˚C). Generously butter a 9 x 5-inch (23 x 13 cm) loaf pan. Line the pan with parchment, leaving some overhang along the long edge. You will use this as “handles” to pull the cake out of the pan when it’s cool.
- Melt the butter in a small pot over low heat or in the microwave. Set it aside to cool slightly.
- Rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingertips until the sugar is yellow and fragrant.
- Beat the eggs with sugar with handheld electric beaters on high speed until thick and pale in colour, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder to combine.
- Use a rubber spatula to mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just incorporated.
- Pour in the melted, cooled butter and gently mix with a rubber spatula until completely combined.
- Toss the blueberries in the 1/2 tablespoon of flour and discard any excess.
- Gently fold the blueberries into the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
- Remove the cake pan from the oven, place it on a wire cooling rack and allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the pan.
- Use the parchment overhang to lift the cake out of the pan and set the cake on the wire cooling rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.
You can store this in an airtight container or well covered with plastic wrap at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. Beyond that, it might be a little dry, but you can pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to warm it up, then slather it with butter!
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Why do my blueberries sink to the bottom and what can I do?
Blueberries are dense and tend to sink to the bottom of both muffins and cakes, sometimes even if you toss them in flour before you add them to the batter (as you can see here!). There are couple of things you can do here, Serious Eats has done the work for you on the research, but basically, you layer some plain batter in the pan before you add some blueberries then continue to layer the batter and berries until you are finished. If you don’t want to do that (it’s a little fussier), and you don’t care if the berries sink, then you’re all good!
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